Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Thanks a Million"

Did you ever say to anyone who did you a favor “Thanks a million...”? I know that I have, many times. I have not “Googled it” lately, but I think the average life expectancy in the USA is 72, which is much higher than the world average. If we use this number and then multiply by 365 days in a year, this produces a mere 26,280 days. If we factor out the “Diaper Years”, the exuberant years of adolescence, and also factor out our final years of twilight, this leaves us we far less than 26,280 days where we are fully responsible for our own thoughts and actions.

Yesterday, our family took the bus from Northern New Jersey to NYC to see the Macy’s Balloons. Taking the bus, we avoided the gas, tolls and parking expenses of “the Big Apple” which can be insane during the holidays. My youngest son Robert said that this was the first time that he ever rode a public bus. How was this possible? How could he have lived for 19 years in the New York Tri-State area, and have never ridden on a bus? Time flew by, as our family discussed this paradox.

When we arrived in NYC, we took a taxi cab to Columbus and 79th to see the Macy’s balloons. I think the night before the parade is more fun than the parade itself. Because there were four of us, I sat in front with the driver, my family sat in the back. All of us (including the driver) started talking about the city and the holidays. We learned that our driver was driving taxi cabs for five years. At a red light, next to our cab was one of those bicycle taxi cabs (Rickshaw) where the cab driver “peddles” you around NYC via nothing but human-power. These tricycle Rickshaws charge $15 to start, and $1 per minute for the trip. Add an extra $10 for more than one passenger. We saw hundreds of these three-wheeled taxis, and they were all occupied. New York City really is quite amazing.

When we arrived at Columbus and 79th, we got out of the cab and we all said thank you to the driver, and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving. I wondered if he was being extra nice during our ride (to earn an extra good holiday tip) or if he was this friendly every day, with every passenger. We asked a local police officer where the balloons were being set up, he gave us excellent directions, and he gave us a few secret tips on how to best see the balloons. We said thank you and we wished him a Happy Thanksgiving. At the end of the evening, we took another taxi cab (no Rickshaws for us) back to the Port Authority, and another bus ride back home.

It is estimated that over one million people see the balloons the night before the parade, and over three million people watch the parade live on the streets of NYC. There are no fees to see the balloons inflated the night before, and there is no charge to watch the parade in the morning. I cannot even imagine the true financial costs and expense to set up the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, to organize it, or clean up after it - for the past 83 years. As I write this blog, I am in my living room watching in HDTV the same balloons that I saw live and in person, just a few hours ago.

Other than our costs of transportation, our family “fun day” excursion into NYC yesterday was completely free. And yet, by my best calculation, we only said “thank you” to two bus drivers, two cab drivers, and one police officer. It would appear that we missed a few people, who made our holiday outing possible.

Today will be a day in our household that we spend eating (too much) wonderful food, watching no less than three professional football games on a big screen HDTV, and enjoying our numerous blessings. I had an epiphany on the bus ride home. It was this: if I spend the rest of my life, saying a proper and sincere “thank you” for all of my blessings – if I were to truly give thanks to everyone who is responsible for everything that is good and important in my life, I would need to live a very, very long life indeed – and I would be saying “thank you” non-stop. I think of all the time wasted in diapers and my years as an (occasionally) thankless teenager – I need to make up for lost time.

On this Thanksgiving Day 2010, I am thankful for my wonderful family, and my dear friends and co-workers. But I am also thankful for New York City cab drivers, bus drivers, and police officers. I am thankful for the armed forces of the US that are allowing all of us to watch the Macy’s Day Parade (for free) and to enjoy all of the freedoms that we enjoy, and to live the rewarding lives that we wish to create for our families. We are all so blessed, and the blessings are so diverse and numerous, that we can easily forget how much we have already enjoyed, and what the future still holds for all of us.

Black Friday will be tomorrow, and the malls will be full of people spending money, buying gifts for friends and family, while getting ready to enjoy the holiday season. The next thirty days are the most amazing of the entire year – especially in such places as New York City. I hope that we take the time to be thankful for the abililty to enjoy the holiday season - and what it means - as many in the world will not be as fortunate.

Since it is mathematically impossible to thank everyone who is responsible for all that we enjoy and cherish, and since it is impossible to go back in time and properly thank all who have made the sacrifices that created the lives that we enjoy, there is only one thing that I can say, and that is “Thanks a million”.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Thanks a million for all of your insightful blog posts... :)

  2. I don't know if you heard him (or understood him for that matter), but there was a point in the first taxi ride when we were talking about how he's been driving for 5 years...

    You might not have picked up on it, but he really took quite a long time to get that answer out of him. And after his response of 5 years - in a rather low and somber voice, he replied "time really flies, doesn't it..."

    People say that line all the time. But for whatever reason - whether it was that specific moment or just the context of being in a random cab in NYC... it really hit me harder than ever.

    We were his first passengers for the night. And just the way he responded... I could tell he would probably be thinking about that single question for the rest of the night.

    And notice how long he took to answer "5 years"? He really had to stop and think about it pretty deeply. Which would also imply that he hadn't been asked that in quite a while, if ever.

    It's weird thinking about the "melting pot" that IS NYC, but it makes me wonder how many 'real conversations' taxi drivers have with passengers.

    I thought it was kind of funny how he didn't know right away how much the rickshaws cost. And when he pulled up next to one - he was just as amazed as we were, and even had managed to put a smile on his face.

    5 years of being in NYC driving a taxi... and he never stopped to look how much the rickshaws cost. Which is possibly one of the first things that we noticed (as tourists/passengers) while being in the taxi.

    It just felt really good to put a smile on his face...

  3. Wow. Excellent observation, Tommy. Now I am glad that I gave him a better than normal tip!